Spring in(to) the Himalayas

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

When I talked to friends about my desire to ski Lhotse in the spring season, most of them made some comment about how the west face of Lhotse would be icy, not just icy but old and cold blue glacial ice. I had talked with Jamie about his prior trip to try and ski Lhotse in 2007 and he confirmed what I wanted to believe. During the spring season in the Himalaya, at some point the monsoonal storms would bring precipitation and eventually the face would loose its icy appearance revealing one of the most classic of all ski mountaineering objectives. While the Lhotse face has been skied, the summit of Lhotse remains as one of the four 8000m peaks still waiting for tracks down it’s throaty little couloir. That 500m couloir off the summit is going to be the crux of skiing this notable objective.

The slow walk into base camp left me itching for a real view of how the Lhotse face would look this season. Two days after arriving to base camp Jamie and I had our bags packed and we’re pushing up the mountain towards Camp 1. Our goals we’re simple, reach camp 1 at 6000m and spend the night. We wanted to make a carry of various equipment items that needed to be brought up the mountain and typical for us our packs grew in size to be more than we had hoped. With hundreds of climbers and Sherpa’s using the same route to Camp 1 the process of moving through the series of fixed ropes in the icefall below camp 1 made for easy travel aside form the altitude. We felt strong until 5700m and then as Jamie said, “It felt like someone had thrown the parking brake,” and we started to drag a little. It took four hours but I had my first views of the hard, old glacial ice that makes up the Lhotse face. It was a bit discouraging to see how icy the face looked and I would be lying to say I wasn’t a little worried by its appearance.

Jamie fired the reactor stove to start making water and I began setting up our VE25 tent. We both felt good but a little tired on the climb up to Camp 1 despite the 6000m in elevation we had reached. Within 30 min of arriving it had begun to snow and we couldn’t see any of the mountains that rose above in every direction, in some ways it was reassuring given how icy the Lhotse face looked. I didn’t want a reminder of how out-of-condition the objective looked to be.  The snow continued to fall throughout the afternoon and into the night but by morning the clouds had begun to part and we received a refreshing view of our looming objective. Nearly 5 inches of snow had fallen and the Lhotse face had taken on an entirely new appearance over the course of one storm. Our spirits were beginning to lift.

With plenty of food and fuel for another night we decided to push a little higher and see just how fit we felt. We packed camp and started up the highway towards Camp 2 at 6400m. Despite being only 400 meters higher and on mostly flat terrain, we we’re forced to cross the occasional classic Khumbu ladders which always add a particularly spicy objective hazard to an otherwise mundane walk between the two camps. None-the-less within a few hours we had pounded our way to Camp 2 and we’re settling into the scene that exists at this camp. Camp 2 is sometimes referred to as an Advanced Base Camp and climbers are known to spend great amounts of time at this camp acclimatizing and waiting for the weather to provide a summit opportunity. Since this was our first visit to 6400m, the opportunity to spend a night here was a sure way to gage how well the trek in had been in helping us to acclimate to our new heights. Again in the afternoon the snow began to fall and views of the massive peaks surrounding the upper Khumbu glacier were obscured. Both Jamie and I knew we had made a quick push to reach Camp 2, feeling good we took the process once step at a time. Hydrate, rest, hydrate and more rest. Despite not sleeping well at Camp 2 we had delivered our first load of gear and spent two nights above 6000m, we were off to a great start for the trip. There was plenty of sunshine and the views of the Lhotse face looked even more promising with two afternoons of fresh snow covering all of the ice that had glistened two mornings before. We choked down a few pancakes and 3 hours later we’re back in base camp. I was tired but happy to have made our first steps towards skiing Lhotse.

  1. JC says:

    Straight to Camp II…..Good push fellas!

  2. Frankie says:

    You guys rock. Keep on pushing and kicking ars. It was great reaching base camp with you all and love the dispatches and pics. I look forward to seeing the pics and videos when complete your task…

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